Posts

EAGxBoston 2022: Retrospective 2022-07-14T13:09:12.373Z
Announcing the New York Effective Altruism Hub: a coworking and event space (+AIS/longtermism office scoping) 2022-06-13T20:01:17.184Z
EA NYC is Hiring for Multiple Roles 2022-05-31T13:42:24.496Z
Should we call them something other than retreats? 2022-05-18T02:10:37.757Z
EAG is over, but don't delete Swapcard 2022-04-23T16:45:03.383Z
Potential EA NYC Coworking Space 2021-12-06T16:25:34.045Z
Lightning Talks: Life Hacks 2021-12-06T16:15:08.289Z
New Year's Workshop 2021-12-06T16:12:20.552Z
Virtual Games Night 2021-12-06T16:02:21.018Z
End-of-Year Party 2021-12-06T15:22:12.363Z
AI Alignment Meetup 2021-12-06T15:18:04.512Z
Matt Lerner of Founders Pledge 2021-12-06T15:05:06.104Z
APPLY NOW! EAGxNYC: Picnic 2021-09-09T01:50:50.263Z

Comments

Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on Are AGI timelines ignored in EA work on other cause areas? · 2022-08-18T12:44:02.121Z · EA · GW

My impression is that AGI timelines are largely ignored in the substance of the work itself, in part because it is hard to know how exactly to incorporate these estimates. I work in EA community building and even in this role it is unclear how I should factor these estimates into my decision-making. I know what questions it raises and I know how the answers to those questions would inform my strategy, but the questions remain hard to answer based on the estimates alone. I would like to see much more discussion of the practical implications of AGI timelines.

Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on Aug 2nd SF EA In-Person Coworking + Live a Principled Life Workshop · 2022-07-22T17:50:46.032Z · EA · GW

You may want to add this to the [Unofficial] EA Global SF 2022 Satellite Events and Parties Google Doc.

Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on Why EA could do more good as a Political International rather than a Philanthropic Nonprofit · 2022-07-20T17:46:09.566Z · EA · GW

Why was this post so heavily downvoted?

Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on Examples of someone admitting an error or changing a key conclusion · 2022-06-28T01:09:38.180Z · EA · GW

Last week, EA NYC had a lightning talks event themed around "Something I Changed My Mind About" and I'd encourage others to host similar events as a low-key and fun way to encourage this community norm.

Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on Cause Exploration Prizes submission: bivalve aquaculture · 2022-06-27T20:44:04.197Z · EA · GW

I appreciate the effort you've put into this and I hope in this comment I don't discourage this sort of investigation. I think it is laudable and valuable, and I hope you continue doing research on potential cause areas. That said, there are several assumptions this works off of that I think are at best questionable, if not outright incorrect. Some of these were noted in the comments of your earlier post, but do not seem to be addressed in this updated version. I am concerned by this given the potential significant harm of EAs adopting bivalve farming as something to champion, as well as the inaccurate claims this post perpetuates. I won't address all of these issues in this comment, but I'll try to go through a few of them:

  • The question of substitution goes largely unaddressed here, e.g. which animals are bivalves most likely to replace and what portion of that replacement would plants not also potentially replace. You consistently compare bivalves to other animals instead of animal-free options.
  • The case for bivalves over plant foods is based on assumptions with misleading citations.
  • Many of the non-consumption benefits of creating more bivalves (e.g. environmental benefits) could be accomplished without those bivalves also being killed.
  • I don't think the potential suffering scaling bivalve farming may cause is adequately noted or accounted for.

From your writeup:

Bivalves are the most preferred protein source

You appear to be comparing different animal menu items against each other, rather than sources of protein. Globally, looking at consumption by grams of protein, plants continue to comprise the largest category in people's diets (Our World In Data). From your writeup, I don't see evidence that bivalves are the most preferred protein source; I see some indication that bivalves are sometimes viewed as a luxury food.
 

For most people, the alternative to eating bivalves is to eat meat

Is there a citation for this? And if this is correct, what animals are the primary alternative and what plant foods were presented as alternatives?

most people are receptive to a proposal to substitute bivalves for other meat, but are not receptive to proposals to go vegetarian/vegan.

The claim you are making here is not backed by the linked source. The linked source shows that people are going vegetarian/vegan, but retention is the issue. What is the source behind the claim that people are receptive to substituting bivalves for other animals? And is there data on what portion of people would substitute e.g. chickens or cows for bivalves but not also substitute chickens or cows for one of many plant options?

Bivalves are far healthier than current plant-based meat alternatives, which have minimal health benefits: “Diets based on novel plant-based substitutes were below daily requirements for calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and Vitamin B12 and exceeded the reference diet for saturated fat, sodium and sugar.”

The claim you are making here is not backed by the linked source and appears to be directly contradicted by the linked source. The linked study appears to be referencing diets with "novel" plant-based ingredients (e.g. vegan junk food) in contrast to diets that use "traditional" plant-based ingredients (e.g. "pulses, legumes and vegetables") and the study directly states that "all diets with traditional plant-based substitutes met daily requirements for calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron and Vitamin B12 and were lower in saturated fat, sodium and sugar than the reference diet."

Commercial farming involves a “depuration” stage, where bivalves are held for a minimum of 48 hours after harvest in clean water, but farmers might be tempted to skip this step, depending on the incentives involved.

I don't feel as informed on this point, but I do think the human health risks associated with bivalve consumption were not given adequate consideration here, especially because some of the purported advantages pertain to survival scenarios. In addition to the heavy metal concerns, bivalves are also potentially one of the greatest sources of food poisoning, a concern that may be even more relevant in a catastrophe with increased environmental pollution and decreased access to both medical care and decontamination information. It seems unlikely that depuration will be carried out successfully in many of the places or times where failure will be the most harmful.
 

Other concerns:

  • I remain concerned that bivalves may be able to suffer and that given the number of bivalves involved, if they do suffer then promoting their consumption is among the greatest harms we could cause. This was raised by several comments on your earlier post. It was linked in the earlier comments, but I'll link again here to this piece by Brian Tomasik:

While bivalves are probably less sentient than most animals of their size, they still sense their environments, show altered morphine levels in response to trauma, and adjust to changing environmental conditions.

  • Bivalves are typically boiled alive or eaten alive. If they have some experience of consciousness and some associated experience of pain, it seems possible this could lead to an even more intense form of suffering than a more complex species would experience.
  • Many other animal species prey on bivalves. I do not know how this is commonly dealt with by bivalve farmers, but it seems likely there are many (wild) animal suffering issues this opens up and expansion of bivalve farming to new areas and new ecosystems could lead to new and/or increased types of suffering in species we are confident are sentient.
  • It seems plausible that promoting increased consumption of bivalves could inadvertently promote increased consumption of other animals, including the species we should be most concerned about, e.g. crustaceans, insects, and/or finfishes, because many people will not differentiate "less sentient oyster" from "clearly sentient lobster."

Overall, I think this is a risky proposition and I worry about EAs getting excited about it based on weak assumptions.

Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on Fill out this census of everyone who could ever see themselves doing longtermist work — it’ll only take a few mins · 2022-06-22T18:07:25.671Z · EA · GW

Can you explain how the locations listed as potential places for people to move were selected? Are they locations that have a certain number of longtermist org headquarters that don't accommodate remote employees? I'm biased, but I was surprised NYC wasn't listed. And in general, I think this sort of suvery can end up propagating certain community-level perceptions through what is included and what is omitted (e.g. implying Boston, DC, and SF are longtermist hubs, but NYC is not).

Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on New cause area: bivalve aquaculture · 2022-06-12T18:24:48.303Z · EA · GW

Non-EAs are receptive to a proposal to substitute bivalves for other meat. They are not receptive to proposals to go vegetarian/vegan. Bivalves are also healthier than plant-based meat. Therefore, bivalves are the most effective way to reduce overall animal suffering.

I'd like to see evidence for each of these three claims, as I don't think they're all (wholly) accurate.

And, as discussed a bit in other comments here, I also have serious concerns about what bivalves experience.

Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on EA NYC is Hiring for Multiple Roles · 2022-05-31T15:13:00.657Z · EA · GW

Very good point!

Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on EA NYC is Hiring for Multiple Roles · 2022-05-31T14:15:30.721Z · EA · GW

Thank you! Expect to see some major updates on the NY EA Center space in the next week or two!

Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on Snakebites kill 100,000 people every year, here's what you should know · 2022-04-29T18:19:08.658Z · EA · GW

Thank you for this write-up! I want to flag that in addressing this problem and possible solutions, there are also significant implications for (wild) animal suffering—e.g. Rileyharris's note about antivenom requiring "milking" of captive snakes and Cienna's comment about predator-play interactions—and I would hope any solution would take this into account in a meaningful way.

Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on I burnt out at EAG. Let's talk about it. · 2022-04-23T16:19:53.775Z · EA · GW

I'm sorry you had this experience. I'm glad you're doing better, were able to put names to some of what happened, and shared it here.

I did not have the exact same experience, but I did have a week of retreats pre-EAG. By Monday, I was too tired to maintain a conversation with my travel partner and I have spent most of the week catching up on sleep and feeling uncharacteristically antisocial.

Two actionable ideas:

  1. Although it makes sense logistically to pair EAG(x)s with retreats and other events, spacing them out might be better. At a minimum, we should implement Manuel's idea of a break of one or two days in between, but I worry that even with that people will want to maximize time together and still fill those days. This might be especially true if we keep having a "conference season" — there were just three large conferences back to back!
  2. Explicitly encouraging people to use Swapcard (or another more functional app lol) year-round might take some of the pressure off for irl 1-1s. Many people delete the app once the conference is over, but it can serve as a longer-term EA networking platform and take some of the pressure off to maximize connections over the course of three days.
Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on I feel anxious that there is all this money around. Let's talk about it · 2022-03-31T21:23:15.834Z · EA · GW

Here's a link to two other thoughts that seem less directly relevant to your question. 

FYI, this just links to this same Forum post for me.

Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on I feel anxious that there is all this money around. Let's talk about it · 2022-03-31T11:54:32.093Z · EA · GW

but it concerns me that entry level positions in EA are now being advertised at what would be CEO-level salaries at other nonprofits

I share these concerns, especially given the prevailing discrepancy in salaries across cause areas,  (e.g. ACE only just elevated their ED salary to ~$94k, whereas several mid-level positions at Redwood are listed at $100k - $170k) and I imagine likely to become more dramatic with money pouring specifically into meta and longtermist work. My concern here is that cause impartial EAs are still likely to go for the higher salary, which could lead to an imbalance in a talent-constrained landscape.

Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on Announcing Alvea—An EA COVID Vaccine Project · 2022-02-22T22:11:41.814Z · EA · GW

EA Consensus
I agree that there is not a consensus and my impression is that this is an area of genuine inconsistency among EAs, though I can't speak to the distribution. I have had conversations with several EAs who either share Marianne's sentiments or feel a significant degree of uncertainty about where they stand, both specifically about Alvea and more generally about tradeoffs of this nature. I don't see their perspectives typically expressed or represented here on the Forum.

Caveating as a Norm
My impression is that even among animal-focused EAs who agree with tradeoffs such as this one, there is still a concern for a cavalierness in how these actions are discussed. The general sentiment is something along the lines of, "EAs wouldn't talk about this so flippantly if the individuals being harmed were human," which may or may not be true. In the context of a post like the OP that is communicating a great deal of pressing information in a palatable three-minute read, I imagine a resolution to this could be as simple as a footnote along the lines of, "We recognize animal testing is an ethically loaded issue. Our reasons for employing it are beyond the scope of this post."

Also, Gavin's comment demonstrates there is seemingly some nuance to Alvea's particular animal testing activities and if they have the capacity I would be interested in learning more.

(I should note as I haven't said it elsewhere that despite these concerns, I am impressed with Alvea's work and look forward to hearing more updates.)

Comment by Rockwell Schwartz on Announcing Alvea—An EA COVID Vaccine Project · 2022-02-22T10:00:57.606Z · EA · GW

I'm disappointed this comment was heavily downvoted as even if people have strong disagreements it is at least a valid perspective to raise. I would like to hear more from the Alvea team about why they went this route and if there were opportunities for harm reduction.